Tunstall Blog: How can technology help us meet the needs of an ageing society?

CCN Blogs | 04 July 2022

Like most developed nations, the UK population is ageing; census data released by the ONS in June 2022 shows that 18.6% of the population is over 651 and that by 2030, one in five people in the UK (21.8%) will be aged 65 or over.

But although we are living longer, we are not necessarily living more healthily. Long-term conditions like heart disease, diabetes and COPD are placing pressure on the UK’s health, and social care services, accounting for 50% of all GP appointments and 70% of all hospital bed days. Treatment and care absorbs 70% of acute and primary care budgets in England.

Angus Honeysett, Head of Market Access at Tunstall Healthcare discusses why it’s important for local authorities to understand the benefits of technology and invest in digital solutions to support our ageing population and reduce pressures on services.

A digital future

Technology is not only reshaping our home and professional lives but also enabling people to live independently for longer. Devices that once seemed like science fiction are being used to support vulnerable people to live safer, healthier and more enjoyable lives.

Relatively low-cost telecare systems can keep people at home, rather than increasing the burden on emergency care by automatically raising calls for help if they sense someone has fallen, or alerting a sleeping carer if the person they care for needs assistance.  This 24-hour support can help to avoid hospital admission, delay and prevent the need for residential care, also reducing carer burnout.

Existing solutions can also support the health and social care system to deliver more effective services. For example, remote patient monitoring (RPM) enables clinicians to monitor trends, intervening early should they need to. This avoids the need for more complex care for those living with chronic conditions, such as ambulance call outs or hospitalisation.

Integrating solutions into the design stage of construction projects is a key factor in driving change. For example, working with providers to design specialist housing with integrated assistive technology from the outset assists with future care planning. This should allow citizens to remain living at home in their communities for longer, delaying the need for specialist services.

The power of data

The wider digital transformation and the application of data analytics is now seen as essential to the smarter management of day-to-day operations, allocation of resources, collaboration across teams and services and ultimately, better delivery of care. In support of this, a recent survey of directors of adult social care found that 65% of respondents indicated that their local authorities were undertaking positive investment strategies for
digital and technology within relevant services.

Integration is a big challenge to consider in future projects for all stakeholders and service providers, including Integrated Care Systems, local authorities, primary and secondary care, care homes and housing providers. Working together whilst challenging, ensures more seamless experiences can be provided for citizens. Whilst local authority staff and other stakeholders require a full understanding of the reality of the day-to-day lives of people they support, greater collaborations means services are based on individual outcomes that are designed from the outset with real people in mind.

Barriers, such as digital inequality, a lack of computer literacy or a non-favourable view of technology, compounds a lack of technology adoption. Working closely with local authority teams for example to deliver training can address any reluctance to adopt technology whilst encouraging local authorities to drive discussions with service providers on the importance of integrating technology into care delivery. This in turn reduces anxiety, increases interest and improves the efficacy of services. Academic research revealed the social and financial benefit of one large scale local authority telecare service; citizens were able to remain more independent, requiring less time from statutory services, with the authority benefiting from a nett cost avoidance of £4,500 per person per year.

With a willingness to change and adapt and the right education and digital frameworks in place, our services can become increasingly focussed on citizens, their choices, their health, and their care through the greater integration of technology. Working in partnership means that better services can be delivered for both the authority and the citizen.

Next steps

Technology has the ability to minimise the impact on already under-resourced statutory services through keeping people at home for longer, however stakeholders must understand its benefits and how to use it effectively.

Local Authorities need to invest time to explore existing and emerging technology so they can ‘dream big’ in designing and delivering cutting-edge services, shaping care delivery for the future and embracing the opportunities presented by digital solutions. By working with local authorities to highlight these benefits, we can ensure all stakeholders can commit with confidence to the transformation of services.

It is in this context that the digital transformation can enable local authorities to encourage innovative practice amongst ICSs, care providers, clinicians, the voluntary sector and housing providers to design services that meet the needs of an ageing population whilst enabling new models of care to be developed and scaled up.

Angus Honeysett,

Head of Market Access, Tunstall Healthcare

For more information please visit https://www.tunstall.co.uk